Fearing God Instead of Men

June 17, 2019

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12:42–43

Have you ever been afraid to make a stand for Jesus because of how someone else might react? It’s normal to feel fear in the face of opposition, but we should never seek people’s approval more than God’s.

Jesus, as we have seen, had done many signs to prove that He was the Messiah. Despite this, the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem flatly rejected Jesus. Tragically, because the Jews stubbornly persisted in rejecting Jesus Christ, God finally blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.

Confirming Their Choice

Why would God intentionally do that? Because when someone insists on rejecting Him, in spite of the many proofs of His goodness and love, God finally confirms them in their choice. This is much like Pharaoh refusing again and again to free the Israelites (see Exodus 5–12).

Still, even among the Jewish leaders, it was obvious to many that Jesus was the Christ, as it had been to Nicodemus. He had said to Jesus, “We know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). But here is the tragedy: these believers did not confess Jesus for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.

There are people today who know that Jesus is the Son of God, yet they do the same thing. They refuse to confess Him publicly for fear of losing friends or a position. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). The Jews refused to acknowledge Jesus because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

Do Not Be Afraid

When I became a Christian, the reputation I had among the guys I worked with suddenly changed. “Here comes preacher man,” they’d say. “He has his radio again. He’s going to make us listen to all those preachers.” They hassled me all the time. Thankfully, I didn’t care.

We should never let what others think determine whether or not we are going to follow the Lord. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord asked the people, in essence, “Why do you fear a man who will die?” (see Isaiah 2:22). Those people who mock and ridicule us will stand before God in judgment. The world’s hold on us can be powerful, but it’s foolish for us to let another person’s opinion determine our eternal destiny.

Jesus’ final words to the Jews were sobering: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Jesus didn’t come to condemn; He came to save. But His word of salvation will also be a word of judgment in the final day. People will say, “I didn’t know,” or “I was afraid,” and God will simply remind them of all the times people witnessed to them, all the times they sat in church, all the times they knew in their spirits that what they heard was true. The words they heard will be the words that condemn them.

Boldly Following Jesus

At a certain point, since the people of Israel counted themselves unworthy of eternal life, the gospel went to the Gentiles. That can happen to individuals when God extends His invitation to people over and over but they repeatedly turn Him down. We must never allow the fear of man to keep us from following Jesus or declaring Him to others. Our own eternity and that of others depends on it.

The Scripture says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, ‘do not harden your heart’” (Psalm 95:7–8). Do you ever let fear of others dictate how you live when it comes to following Jesus? Ask the Lord for the courage to follow Him boldly, no matter what others think. The praise of God is worth infinitely more than the praise of men.